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Second Thoughts Game #88: Indians 9, Tigers 6

Pestano implodes as Dr. Smooth cures Tribe's pains belting two homers

Second Thoughts Game #88: Indians 9, Tigers 6
July 8, 2013
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Player of the Game: Michael Brantley (3-for-5) with a double, two homers and 5 RBI

The Leadoff

Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of the CC Sabathiatrade to the Milwaukee Brewers back on July 7, 2008.

Flash forward five years later, left fielder Michael Brantley (the player to be named later in that deal) had his best day as a member of the Indians against Detroit on Sunday.

Slugging two home runs and picking up a career-high five RBI, Cleveland snapped its four game losing streak, as they edged the Tigers 9-6 at Progressive Field.

It wasn’t easy, but the clutch performance by Brantley and a great starting pitching performance by Corey Kluber (6-5, 4.23 ERA) was too much for a Motown, as the Tribe notched their first victory over their division rivals since May 12.

Smooth sailing

What an afternoon it was for Brantley. Entering the ballgame hitless in the series, “Dr. Smooth” had his second career two homer game in less than a month.

Now hitting .280 on the year and already tying a career-high with seven long balls on the year, with 45 RBI, Brantley is now five RBI ahead of Carlos Santana and just two behind Mark Reynolds with 47 RBI on the year.

Try this one on for size:

Over his last 17 games, Brantley has hit five home runs and collected 15 RBI. Reynolds over his last 54 games has just four homers and 18 RBI.

Kluber racks up the K’s

Not to be left out, Kluber was simply brilliant on Sunday tying a career-high with 10 strikeouts and giving up just two runs on five hits through 6 1/3 innings.

It was the second time this year Kluber struck out 10 in a no-decision bid, the last coming in Boston back on May 26.

If the Tribe would in fact make the playoffs, there’s no doubt in my mind I would feel confident with Kluber starting Game 3 or 4 in a five or seven-game series. Unlike Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, Kluber has stayed consistent and shown why he should be in the Indians rotation for years to come.

Bully hurtful again

Up 6-1 with one out in the top of the seventh, the Tribe bullpen imploded yet again. Tigers second baseman Ramon Santiago concluded Kluber’s day on the mound before manager Terry Francona called upon reliever Joe Smith to finish the seventh.

Detroit greeted him with three straight singles off the sidearm reliever, cutting the Indians lead to 6-3.

Then, in came setup man Vinnie Pestano to pitch the eighth inning. A leadoff walk and a base hit put two runners on for Indian killer Torii Hunter.

With two outs, Hunter took a hanging slider from Pestano to the home run porch in left field tying the game at six.

Why can things ever be easy?

Pestano couldn’t finish the inning and boy did he hear boos. I think it’s safe if he stayed off Twitter for awhile.

I wrote in my second thoughts column after Saturday that the Tribe needs a starter to make themselves a legitimate playoff contender, what I forgot to add was that they also need another one or even two bullpen arms as well.

Who can Tito even trust in the pen anymore?

Chiz Kid mashin’

Finishing the afternoon 2-for-3 with a solo homer in the second inning, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has quietly come into his own of late.

Since being recalled from Triple-A Columbus, The Chiz Kid is hitting .296 (16-for-54) with two home runs and seven RBI.

With Reynolds still in a deep freeze offensively, Chisenhall will see his playing time improve at third base with the right-handed slugger staying at DH to take pressure off him defensively. In 40 starts at third, Chiz had committed just four errors while Reynolds has five in 37 starts.

Offense heats up

After being outscored 13-1 through the first two games of the series by the fifth inning, Cleveland jumped out to a 5-1 lead by the third on Saturday which proved to be the difference.

The offensive breakout came against one of the Tigers best starters in Doug Fister (6-5, 4.07 ERA). Coming into Sunday yielding just seven runs in four starts against the Tribe last season, the Indians routed Fister for six runs on six hits through six innings.

If the Tribe can keep putting runs on the board early, not only will they give the opposition pressure, but take the pressure off their starting pitching which has had its ups and downs all season long.

It was good to finally see the Wahoo’s take down the Tigers at home as well. In order to stay in the pennant race, the Indians must keep playing good ball at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario where they are now 25-17.

Closing Time

With the win, Cleveland (46-42) moves to 2 1/2 games in back of Detroit for first place in the A.L. Central. The team improves to 3-8 against the Motor City Kitties with eight games remaining between both clubs.

Up next for the Indians: The Tribe will look to split the four game series in the rubber match Monday night. Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.86 ERA) take the hill versus Tigers All-Star Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. Kazmir is 4-0 with a 4.26 ERA in six starts at Progressive Field this season, while the Detroit right-hander is 2-0 in two starts in his only two starts against the Indians.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at

User Comments

July 8, 2013 - 7:04 PM EDT
Jim, for quite a while i have been comparing michael brantley with a young Garrett Anderson who developed power after being elevated to anaheim. He is starting to hit like anderson. As for corey i admit i called him a 4A pitcher and apparently was i ever wrong. I knew he threw hard and normally i dont look at a guy who strikes out a lot of guys as kluger does without being excited but there was something about kluger that i didnt like apparently i am wrong kluger has done enough to show me that he is a major league pitcher who deserves to be middle of rotation starter now if we caN get Zac Mac soon we will have at least an average starting rotation. I suspect Thursday night we will get to see Salazar finally on the bump at carnegie and ontario.
July 8, 2013 - 11:59 AM EDT
Good stuff Jim... Brantley has quietly transformed himself from a a great conttact hitter to a complete hitter. He has followed the approach, probably instilled in him by his father, of guys like Ichiro and Gwynn who initially learn to make contact with quick compact strokes and then progress to longer swings with more body torque. Brantley is a big strong kid if you look at him, and when he lets it fly the ball really travels- breakout year for him, And breakout year for Kluber. He's a big strong kid as well and when he lets it fly good things happen. The Tigers swung at a lot of challenging off speed and off the plate breaking pitches yesterday because he makes them look like fastballs. I would have to say he's had too many good outings now to say this is an aberration. He is becoming a legit major league pitcher right before our eyes. And Lonnie, wind him and let him go, he could be the next breakout young star- he's very athletic just needs the everyday reps in my opinion.

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